Marina Tsvetaeva: The Essential Poetry includes translations by Michael M. Naydan and Slava I. Yastremski of lyric poetry from all of the great Modernist Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva’s published collections and from all periods of her life. It also includes a translation of two of Tsvetaeva’s masterpieces in the genre of the long poem, “Poem of the End” and “Poem of the Mountain.” The collection strives to present the best of Tsvetaeva’s poetry in a single small volume and to provide a representative overview of Tsvetaeva’s high art and the development of different poetic styles over the course of her creative lifetime. Also included in this volume are a guest introduction by eminent American poet Tess Gallagher, a translator’s introduction and extensive endnotes.
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A tragic figure in Russian literature, Marina Tsvetaeva ranks alongside her distinguished contemporaries Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam and Boris Pasternak as one of the greats of Russian verse. She published her first collection of intimate lyric poems, using her own money to fund the project, in 1910, under the title Evening Album; the book was warmly received by a number of prominent poets who happened to review it. She published her second collection, Magic Lantern, in 1912 and a compilation of works from her first two collections, From Two Books, in 1913. These publications can be said to mark her early years in poetry. What followed was her mature period, which was to be overshadowed by tempestuous romantic entanglements and childbirth in Tsvetaeva’s life, and a period of great social turbulence in the old Russia that had an enormous impact on her family. Despite the severe hardship she faced, Tsvetaeva’s creative output only increased during the years of the Russian Civil War, from 1917-1922.
After emigrating to Europe, Tsvetaeva continued to write poetry but gradually shifted her focus towards imaginative literary essays and prose memoirs. Another major creative outlet for her was the extensive correspondence she maintained with major poets such as Boris Pasternak and Rainer Marie Rilke. While in Paris, Tsvetaeva’s husband Sergei Efron became involved with a Eurasian organization that promoted the return of Russian emigrés to the USSR. After being implicated in a plot to kill the former Soviet agent and defector Ignace Reiss, Efron fled first to Spain and then back to the USSR. Tsvetaeva followed her husband to the Soviet Union with her family, where Efron was executed for espionage and her daughter Ariadna was sentenced to a lengthy prison term in Stalin’s GULAG on the same charge.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“This translation embraces and celebrates the unrestrained passion that runs through Tsvetaeva’s poetry, and unlocks the complexity of her verse.” Savannah Whaley, Russia Beyond The Headlines
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